Ramp up your team talk during COVID-19


Our working worlds changed overnight when COVID-19 lockdown began in South Africa. One day we were leading a pacey life of alarm clocks, yelling at kids to pack school bags, battling through traffic, vibrant chats with workmates, making dinner and falling into bed exhausted at night. The next, we were going nowhere at all. Those among us who had been requesting more work-life balance and remote working flexibility suddenly got their wish granted in technicolour.

After an initial flurry of anxiety-fuelled adjustment to remote work-life – the main symptom of which was unnecessary Zoom calls which thankfully has passed – we have settled into a new way of living and working. It is, for many, a slower lifestyle where we can be more tuned into our families and home lives. On the other hand, keeping employees connected to their work lives and company culture has become a lot more challenging.

How can a business keep its employees engaged, motivated and loyal? And how best to balance giving employees emotional space, with keeping them effective in their roles? The answer lies, of course, in strong leadership – and most definitely in considered and regular employee communications.


Here are Atmosphere’s five employee communications keys for maintaining a motivated and engaged workforce.


  1. Communicate more than you normally do

The office environment is a hive of activity – everyday there are countless chats, updates, laughs, spontaneous brainstorms, high fives and support. With this face-to-face energy out of our lives right now, it is vital to communicate with staff more often than you would normally.

Consider setting up a communications team that is responsible for setting in motion a rhythm of communication throughout the week – in a variety of formats – to keep in touch regularly with your teams. Make sure to include video calls in the mix. Not only do these give a good nudge for people to get up, get dressed and look alert, they are also a way to connect face-to-face and keep relationships going.


  1. Balance work info with support and fun

Offering business updates at a set time every week is vital as there will be a lot of insecurity surrounding company performance. Different formats will work best for different companies, but a meeting via video or audio call, with a follow up in writing is a pretty effective approach.

In a time as unusual as this, employers can play a bigger role in their employee’s lives than normal. It is vital to balance business messaging about the company with information that offers support to individuals. We are all going through change, so leadership needs to offer support. Regular individual check-ins from leaders are vital. There should be an anonymous channel for confidential questions, and you should think about extending support beyond communications. For instance, does it make sense to offer employees online therapy sessions or debt counselling?


  1. Be understanding

Staying home is not easy for everyone. Usual childcare (including school) has been taken out of the equation so the balancing act is tough for parents. Even more challenging, is those who live in underprivileged areas. Often these households are impacted by living in close quarters with others, lack of internet connectivity and other issues brought on by poverty. Having an empathetic and more flexible approach to productivity and demands will be key to keeping employees engaged and loyal. And provide enough internet connectivity of course. 


  1. Be transparent and realistic

When it comes to business updates, this is not a time to sugar coat issues if the outlook is not rosy for your business. On the other hand, it is extremely important to keep communications positive and action-oriented. Regularly communicate the plans you have in place to get through the lockdown and related economic downturn and recovery afterwards. This will give employees a sense of comfort that the business is being led well through this time – but bear in mind that there are a lot of factors outside your control and circumstances change daily, so be careful what you say. You don’t want your workforce’s faith in you to be impacted.


Actively work on your company culture

Highlight your company values and culture in your communications. Remind people of what makes your business a successful operation, what lies at the heart of your organisation’s DNA and bring in fun ways to refresh and revitalise company culture. At Atmosphere, we have begun using the social media platform TikTok to create videos showing the lighter side of working from home. The videos give everyone a chance to participate and the result is both funny, and warm and fuzzy. Consider bringing in something fun, fresh and participative to build the ‘gees’.

And finally, remember that we are all human and we need some humour in our lives. A great side effect of the lockdown has been the videos, memes and jokes doing the rounds. Encourage the sharing of these on company WhatsApp groups. Sharing a laugh together is a wonderful way to collectively lighten the mood.


Atmosphere Communications offers specialised tailored employee communications strategies. Contact info@atmosphere.co.za for more information.